That, given that,
(i) Canada is in the midst of an opioid crisis that has killed over 35,000 people since 2016,
(ii) since 2017, the federal government has spent over $800 million on its failed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, including over $100 million in funding for hard-drug supply projects across Canada, and plans to spend an additional $74 million to “scale up” these projects over the next five years,
(iii) since tax-funded drug supply was ramped up in 2020, opioid deaths have only gone up, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada,
(iv) in 2020, slightly less than 7,000 people died of opioid overdoses, while only 3,000 died of overdoses in 2016, according to the Library of Parliament,
(v) in British Columbia alone, yearly drug overdose deaths have increased by 330% between 2015 and 2022,
(vi) recently, a Global News reporter in East Vancouver was able to buy 26 hits for $30 in just 30 minutes of a dangerous and highly addictive opioid that is distributed in tax-funded drug supply programs and flooding our streets with cheap opioids,
the House call on the government to immediately reverse its deadly policies and redirect all funds from taxpayer-funded, hard drug programs to addiction, treatment and recovery programs.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.
After eight years of the Prime Minister, everything feels broken. Life costs more. Work does not pay. Housing costs have doubled. The Prime Minister divides to control the people. Worst of all, crime and chaos, drugs and disorder rage in our streets. Nowhere is this worse than in the opioid overdose crisis, which has expanded so dramatically in the last several years.
The Prime Minister has a theory, backed up by a group of activists, most of them tax-funded, pharmaceutical companies and others that stand to gain from perpetuating the crisis. The theory is that, if the government provides powerful, heroin-like drugs that are uncontaminated, addicts will no longer use more deadly fentanyl, they will practise safe drug use and we will no longer have overdoses.
The Prime Minister has spent $78 million on 28 projects giving out free drugs. His recent budget proposes another $100 million for more tax-funded drugs. This includes heroin dispensary machines, where people can walk up, press some buttons and heroin pops out. It also includes prescriptions that allow people to take hydromorphone out into the street and use it or sell it, however they like. The theory is that this would divert away from more dangerous fentanyl. Let us look at the facts.
This is fact number one: Since the Prime Minister took office, there have been more than 34,000 apparent opioid overdose deaths. Here is another fact: This is not a problem the Prime Minister inherited; it is one he helped create. A total of 5,360 apparent opioid overdose deaths occurred from January to September 2022. This is approximately 20 deaths per day. It is a 173% increase from 2016, the first full calendar year he was in office. In other words, since his policies have come into effect, the overdose numbers have nearly tripled.
This is fact number three: While the deaths have risen across the country under the Prime Minister's policies, they have been the very worst in those provincial and municipal jurisdictions that have most enthusiastically embraced them. For example, in British Columbia, where in most jurisdictions, particularly Vancouver, all three levels of government have endorsed the so-called safe supply and decriminalization of hard drugs, the levels of overdose deaths have been the highest. Across B.C., the number of overdose deaths is up 330%.
The COVID excuse no longer works. This is a fact: Despite the claim, by supporters of handing out and decriminalizing drugs, that COVID was to blame for the crisis, what we have seen is that, as COVID moves farther away in the rearview mirror, the overdose deaths actually increase. For example, in March of this year, we had 9% more overdose deaths in B.C. than in March 2022, and 23% more overdose deaths than in March 2021. The more we move away from COVID, the more the overdose deaths increase. In fact, the deaths are not coinciding with COVID. They are coinciding with the recent decriminalization of crack, heroin, fentanyl and other hard drugs on January 1.
We are told that all the experts agree, just like the Liberals tell us all the time whenever they do something that defies common sense. We remember that all the experts agreed that printing money would not cause inflation, right before it led to a 40-year high, or that catch-and-release bail would not increase crime rates, before crime skyrocketed 32%.
We are told that giving out and decriminalizing hard drugs would reduce drug overdoses. These so-called experts are typically pie-in-the-sky theorists with no experience getting people off drugs, or they are members of the “misery industry”, those paid activists and public health bureaucrats whose jobs depend on the crisis continuing.
The real academic scholarship is clear, if the minister would even bother to read it. A thorough study by dozens of doctors and researchers from Stanford University, published in The Lancet and shared by a former adviser to President Obama, found that:
At the same time, evidence clearly shows the folly of assuming that population health inherently improves when health-care systems provide as many opioids as possible with as few possible regulatory constraints as possible. Policies that should attract scepticism include dispensing of hydromorphone from vending machines and prescribing a range of potent opioids and other drugs (eg., benzodiazepines, stimulants) to individuals with OUD in hopes of creating a safe addictive-drug supply and eliminating the supervision of methadone patients—ie, converting the system to unmonitored, long-term prescriptions on a take-home basis.
The study goes on to comment on the claim that hydromorphone, which is what the government is giving out, is safe. It continues:
Although expressed from a public health viewpoint, these messages echo the opioid manufacturers in presuming that unrestricted opioid provision can only improve public health. The faith of some advocates that opioids are safe as long as they are not derived from illicit markets is impossible to reconcile with the hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths from legal, pharmaceutical grade opioids that preceded the introduction of fentanyl into U.S. and Canadian heroin markets.
Furthermore, the safe supply program uses hydromorphone, which, according to one study published in a pharmacology journal, “produced similar subjective and physiological effects as heroin, but was more potent than heroin.” This is the stuff the minister and the Prime Minister are giving out using our tax dollars.
In a 2020 podcast, Dr. Mark Tyndall, one of Canada's earliest safer supply advocates, said that he had tested the urine of 15 patients who were on safer supply and found that 90% of them used fentanyl. In other words, they were not being diverted from fentanyl; they were using it in conjunction with safer supply. Now we know that it is even worse than that; the hydromorphone is being resold by the user to children, and the profit is being reinvested in buying fentanyl. In other words, the government is not only giving out dangerous hydromorphone but also actually, in effect, giving out fentanyl by giving the user the hydromorphone to sell to raise the revenue to buy fentanyl. The government is using our tax dollars to give out fentanyl on our streets and cause this crisis. Meanwhile, the cost of a hit of hydromorphone has dropped by between 70% and 95%, to roughly a dollar a hit, because the government is effectively paying for it and handing it out far and wide.
This makes no sense. The facts and evidence disprove it as a strategy. This is a radical and out-of-touch approach, which is not aligned with that of any other successful jurisdiction in the world. It is quite the opposite of what is being done in places like Portugal, which has focused on recovery, not on handing out free hard drugs. Therein lies the hope. We can turn the hurt the Prime Minister has caused into the hope Canadians need.
In Alberta, which is thoroughly rejecting the decriminalization and tax-funded handout of hard drugs and instead putting the money into recovery, we have seen, in the most recent data, a 30% reduction in the number of overdose deaths. That is because it is clear that what people suffering from addiction need is help getting off the drugs. To have that, we need recovery communities where they can go to get help with breaking the addiction and, if necessary, be given a bit of medication to relieve the side effects of getting off the drug, and then have the psychotherapy necessary to overcome the underlying reasons they got into drug addiction in the first place. We know this works. The evidence backs it up.
Therefore, our common-sense plan is to take the money away from subsidizing heroin-like drugs, and instead put all that money into recovery and treatment and sue the powerful pharmaceutical companies that helped cause this crisis, so we can use the proceeds of that lawsuit to fund even more recovery. That is how we are going to bring home our loved ones drug-free. It is how we will turn hurt into hope. It is the common sense of the common people, united for our common home: their home, my home, our home. Let us bring it home.